Therapists plan to carry on services

NAUGATUCK — Two therapists are hoping to continue the tradition of family service in the borough.

Naugatuck Youth and Family Services Acting Director Christina Gamble and therapist Gerald Gaura have decided to continue to work together to form the tentatively-named Naugatuck Marriage and Family Services.

Naugatuck Youth and Family Services is currently a borough-run department. However, it will be disbanded at the end of this month. Gamble and Gaura have not taken any new clients for the past month, but will continue to serve current clients until June 30.

The move towards transitioning the services provided by Naugatuck Youth and Family Services to a private entity stems from a long-term strategic plan for borough government developed by the West Hartford-based consulting firm Blum, Shapiro & Co. The plan recommended looking into privatizing the department.

The nonprofit organization, Naugatuck Youth Services, Inc. is poised to carry on the youth service aspect of the department.

“With the transition the town was basically saying they didn’t want to support the therapy services component anymore,” Gaura said.

Gamble and Gaura were concerned about the future of family therapy in the borough.

“That was one of the issues that’s difficult for me to get my head around, what happens to these families. There are private-sector opportunities for people in this sector, but there are a lot of people who look towards this organization to provide that because of the low fees and ease of service,” Gaura said.

Gamble and Gaura decided the best way to serve Naugatuck residents was to come together and continue their practice as a private organization.

“We kind of feel like we are qualified to represent what the organization was about,” Gamble said.

Gamble has worked with the department for nearly 22 years and Gaura has been there for four years.

Gaura said the next step for the duo is to find a place to operate their business.

“What’s hard to replace is this place because it has that kind of family feel to it,” said Gaura about the building on Scott Street the department currently operates out of. “This is one of the features that we like and the clients like, the sense that it’s part of a bigger family. You can’t get that in your typical commercial space.”

Gamble echoed his sentiments, saying a typical commercial space would not feel as “homey” as the current location does.

St. Michael’s Church in Naugatuck has offered to provide temporary space for the pair to practice, according to Gaura. With the temporary space there will be no gap in services when the transition occurs July 1, he said.

Although they are going to try and recreate the feeling and the ease of seeing a therapist that residents found at Naugatuck Youth and Family Services, it won’t be exactly the same.

“Our model now would definitely be offering a sliding scale but accepting insurance. It wouldn’t be as cheap as it is now,” Gaura said. “It’s a little more complicated in the agency setting. One of the benefits in this setting is people could get in, they could be seen, there’s not a lot of paperwork, the pay issue is a little easier. Those are things, unfortunately, we won’t be able to offer privately.”

In addition to helping borough residents, the pair also hopes to become established enough to begin accepting interns again.

“To be honest that was one of the sad things about letting go of this place, it’s not just the therapy services, but there’s a tradition here that’s connected to a larger Connecticut community. A lot of the colleges sent interns here,” Gamble said.

Gaura pointed out that the organization sometimes had as many as seven interns at a time.

While it may prove difficult to restart the therapy portion once Naugatuck Youth and Family Services closes its doors, there is no question as to why Gaura and Gamble want to continue serving borough residents.

“I don’t think it’s a question of why do we need it, it’s more of a question of what can the community benefit from, and we really feel, as family therapists, that being able to attend to the family is an important part of any community services. By taking it away we’re losing something,” Gaura said.

Gaura said the knowledge gained while working under the late, former Naugatuck Youth and Family Services Director Jane Lobdell will set the pair apart as they head out on their own.

“From my perspective, it’s really believing in the focus of community and family. That was one thing that was foremost with Jane, she was really connected to the community pulse. We were trained in that way, of not just providing family therapy but family therapy as a reflection of the care you are offering to the community. It’s about caring for that larger system,” Gaura said.

Gamble and Gaura are working on setting up a website, www.naugatuckmfts.com. For now, people can call (203) 828-0253 for more information.

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